Geomonitoring of Orchard Meadows: Successful Project Conclusion

After numerous drone flights, analyzed infrared images, and the hard work of researchers at the Heidelberg University of Education, we can look back on a successful partnership. Geomonitoring is not only an important foundation for the preservation of the significant cultural landscapes of the orchard meadows, but also enables to raise awareness of residents through an online database for tree sponsorship.

10/28/2022 Reading Time: 1 min

Latest Technology for Protecting Cultural Landscapes

Since July 2018, individual research drones have flown over the orchard meadows in the community of Bad Schönborn at regular intervals. Thus, using photo and multispectral recordings from the drones, a total area of approximately 500 hectares, including about ten hectares of orchard meadows, was recorded, analyzed, and evaluated. Thanks to new geotechnologies, researchers in geography at Heidelberg University were able to identify the maintenance needs and develop corresponding recommendations for the orchard meadow stands. With these measures tailored to the health of the orchard meadow stand, the diversity of the fruit stock and thus the habitat of native animals can be protected for the long term.

Results on the Health of Fruit Trees

The final results of the research project show the following: Approximately 20 percent of the stock was identified as requiring urgent maintenance, about half had little need, and 28 percent had no need. The tree species of the examined orchard meadows consist of two-thirds apple trees, followed by pear, walnut, plum, damson and cherry trees. Thanks to the classification and analysis of the health of the trees, the correct maintenance should now primarily be carried out through regular tree pruning. This promises far-reaching effects: In the long term, an improvement in the vitality of the trees will contribute to the biodiversity of the area and thus to the preservation of the habitat of native animals and insects.

Maintenance through Tree Sponsorships

All residents of the Bad Schönborn region are now invited to participate: Residents can take over sponsorships for fruit trees through a platform specifically developed for the research project. Thanks to this activation measure, based on a web-based geographic information system (WebGIS for short), sponsors can see where their trees are and what care they need. So the mediation of sponsorships contributes to the preservation of the scattered fruit stands.

Rüdiger Recknagel, Spokesman of the Management Board of the Audi Foundation for the Environment, emphasizes the comprehensive approach of the project: "Our foundation work combines the use of modern technologies with the environmental protection idea. This project combines scientific know-how with education, environmental education and individual engagement. The people who live here gain knowledge through active participation and a personal benefit through harvesting the fruits of the trees for which they have taken on sponsorships. It creates a sustainable awareness for preserving habitats and biodiversity."

Project leader Alexander Siegmund, Professor of Physical Geography and leader of the project team at the Heidelberg University of Education, adds: "For us, the orchard meadows project is a model project in which the potentials of modern geotechnology for the preservation and mediation of this unique cultural landscape can be ideally combined. As a UNESCO Chair for Earth Observation and Geo-communication, we were able to bring our great experience in environmental research and sustainability communication to the best advantage here."

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